Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”
- John 5:2-8 (ESV)
The pool at the Sheep Gate was believed to have healing properties for the first one to enter the water when it was disrupted from time to time. It feels bizarre that Jesus would ask a man who had had a malady for almost 40 years and who was waiting by a pool of healing if he wanted to be healed. The answer seems clear.
The man’s response indicates that he, too, feels as though the answer is clear.
He essentially cries out, “Yes, of course I want to be healed. Don’t you see where I’m sitting? Do you know how long I’ve been waiting here? Don’t you think I have done everything in my power to get rid of this ailment that keeps me from living life to the fullest?”
The man desperately wanted to be healed. He was in the right place; he just couldn’t get into the pool in time. He did all that he could do to be healed, but it was never enough. When Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed, his response shows that “he mistook the question for an accusation rather than an invitation” (Collin Huber). His response was one of defense born out of defeat and discouragement.
The man was so deeply entrenched in his state of brokenness that he missed the fact that His Healer was standing right in front of him, inviting him to healing.
Jesus asks us all the same question – Do you WANT to be healed? The question for us isn’t necessarily about physical healing but about spiritual healing.
Jesus is inviting us to let go of the sins that bind us that we may be set free. He has already done the work of salvation for us and in us. Now, He wants to continue the work of making us more like him. Like the man at the Sheep Gate, we cannot do it on our own, but we have to want it.
1. Do you want to be healed of the sins that entrench you so that you can be more and more like Jesus?
2. Ask Jesus to heal you and to continue to give you the desire to turn from sin. Voice the sins to him that feel heaviest on your heart today
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
-Galatians 5:1 (ESV)
The freedom Paul refers to in Galatians 5:1 isn’t just freedom from the penalty of sin (eternal death); it’s freedom from the POWER of sin over us right here and now. While we are saved from the eternal penalty of sin immediately upon believing in Jesus as our Savior, our sanctification – becoming more and more like Jesus – is a process that happens over time. Sanctification is ultimately the work of the Lord in us as He changes our desires, our ambitions, and our hopes. It’s also a process into which He invites us to join Him through the work of the Holy Spirit.
God’s grace is what allows us to be saved and sanctified. Pastor and theologian, Kyle Worley, explains in the “Knowing Faith” podcast that we have been given grace “not so that [we] can live however [we] want but so that [we] can now live in God’s ways.” This is what Paul and other New Testament writers teach us. They write with the presupposition and the strong belief that God’s way is what’s best for us, so it’s how we want to live as followers of Christ. Worley says that sanctification causes us to understand that “God is not holding out on us; God is what’s best for us.” Living in gratitude for the freedom we have as people who have been saved from both the penalty of sin AND the power of sin over us should make us want to live a life of obedience. God’s grace should cause us to crave a life of obedience out of gratitude.
Paul encourages us in Galatians 5:16-18 to walk by the Spirit. He reminds us that the desires of the flesh are contrary to the desires of the Holy Spirit. However, we are free from the bondage of the law, free to live a life of obedience out of love and gratitude, not out of the burden of obligation.
Galatians 5 goes on to talk about the characteristics of those who live by their own desires: sexual immorality, impurity, hatred, jealousy, discord, selfish ambitions, drunkenness, discord, and more. But then Paul moves to what characterizes a life lived in the Spirit: peace, kindness, joy, self-control, love, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and forbearance. Living a life of obedience through the Holy Spirit changes us in visible ways, but it is not easy or immediate. It’s a moment-by-moment dying of self.
As God does the work of sanctification in us, we will become more and more aware of sin in the world but also sin in us. This awareness will make us long deeply for heaven:
1. Read the lyrics below and consider the chains from which we have been released. These aren’t just the chains of hell but the chains of the power of sin over us. Take some time to praise the Lord through these lyrics:
Released from my chains I'm a prisoner no more
My shame was a ransom He faithfully bore
He canceled my debt and He called me His friend
When death was arrested and my life began
Our savior displayed on a criminal's cross
Darkness rejoiced as though heaven had lost
But then Jesus arose with our freedom in hand
That's when death was arrested and my life began
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
- Romans 12:1-2 (NIV)
Several years ago my husband’s uncle gave our boys a game called “Boom! Boom! Balloon.” You blow up a balloon and place it in a stand with three arms that “hold” the balloon. The arms all have holes in them where you insert plastic rods that eventually push on the balloon. You spin the spinner and then push the rods in as many notches as the spinner tells you to. The rods click with each push. The game ends when someone pops the balloon.
This odd (and terrifying) game is a great picture of what Paul is teaching us in Romans 12:1-2.
Paul says that because of all that he has taught in Romans 1-11 about God’s grace that is offered for everyone, Jews and Gentiles, we have the ability to offer ourselves as sacrifices to Him. In other words, as we discussed yesterday, God’s kindness is what leads us to repentance and a desire to be changed.
Paul tells us that following the Lord means not conforming to anything that goes against His Word, but, instead, renewing our minds.
If we think of our minds as the balloon and the rods as the things of the world, we know that we will eventually burst if we are captivated by the world more than we are of the Word. With each temptation to conform to the world and give in to sin, our minds are changed. In the game, it takes a surprisingly long time for the balloon to pop, but as soon as one rod even slightly pushes on the balloon, the balloon changes shape. As more and more rods are pushed further into the balloon, it becomes almost unrecognizable. Even without fully giving in to the ways of the world, our minds are affected.
However, as we walk closely with the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, our minds become less and less impacted by the patterns of the world. Picture a soccer ball in place of the balloon. It would hardly change if the rods were pushed into it. A bowling ball wouldn’t be affected in the slightest. This is what it looks like for our minds to be transformed. The world doesn’t change; our ambitions and desires do. As we draw nearer to God, our gaze changes from being fixated on the world to be fixated on Him. When that happens, less of the world enters our mind. After all, it has been said that we become what we behold.
1. Where is your gaze fixed – on the things of the world or on God and His Word?
2. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you focus on the Lord and to help you in the process of transforming your mind as you give yourself to Him as a living sacrifice.
We have talked this week about wanting to be healed from the sins that ensnare us, about the process of sanctification, and about the renewing of our minds.
Healing, sanctification, and renewal can only happen in the presence of Jesus.
Spend time today praising God for who He is, not for what He has done for you or given to you, but for who He is.
When we pray this way it’s easy to drift off or to make it quick. I invite you to work your way through the alphabet, naming an attribute of God for each letter of the alphabet.
For example, I praise you God because You are:
You may need to be creative with some of the letters.
When we focus on who God is, we are naturally drawn closer to Him. When we reflect on His kindness and His grace, we can’t help but want to be more like Him.
Our praise to God leads us to wanting to be healed of and freed from our sins, to walking in obedience as the process of sanctification continues, and to seeing the transformation of our minds.